Here's four ideas from Joel Ransom, North Dakota State University Extension agronomist, on how to protect winter wheat over winter on prevent plant acres with residue:
1) Maintain standing and surface crop residue from the prior crop and control the weeds using chemical fallow. For dryer areas of the state, this practice can conserve moisture in the soil. The obvious downside, however, for areas of excessive moisture is that there will be no plants to remove this moisture from the soil.
2) Plant flax. Flax can be established as a lightly seeded solid stand or in wide rows or strips (i.e. 3-4 feet spacing. When seeding flax in strips or in wide row spacings, the drill should be set at a high seeding rate (40-60 pounds per acre) and drill spouts should be taped shut to obtain the desired spacing. Strips of flax more than 10 feet apart can be risky as they do not catch sufficient snow in most years. Solid seeded flax should be seeded at a rate of 6 to 8 pounds per acre. Flax can be seeded from the last week of July to no later than August 15, depending on the region of the state. Though some additional weed management will likely be needed prior to planting, a flax cover crop followed by winter wheat could be a viable and profitable option for dealing with land that was too wet to plant this spring. Given the restriction that a crop cannot be windrowed, grazed or harvested before November 1st if a prevented plant payment is received, the most effective residue crop is probably flax.
3) Plant cereal crops. They need to reach the late boot or heading stage in order to maintain and erect nature in order to catch snow. This means that they should probably be planted during or before the last week in July in North Dakota. It is estimated that 30 pounds per acre should provide adequate cover for the winter wheat if it remains erect after winter wheat seeding. The cereal cover crop will need to be terminated in time to break the "Green Bridge" before winter wheat planting to manage the disease wheat streak mosaic. A two week period void of living grass type plants is needed to break the life cycle of the wheat curl mite that vectors the wheat streak mosaic disease.
4) Make use of volunteer canola. It may also serve as a relatively good stubble source if the plant populations are adequate and relatively uniform. Be sure to terminate the canola before viable seeds are formed to ensure that canola does not become a problem plant in your winter wheat crop.
Farm program rules
To maintain eligibility for DCP programs, acres that have not been planted must be protected from wind and water erosion, and must be maintained to control the propagation of weeds, Ransom says.
Fields that receive a prevented planting payment cannot be planted to an insurable crop prior to the ending date of its late planting period and any cover crop that is planted cannot be hayed or grazed until November 1st (growers should confirm the restrictions and guidelines of their specific policy before seeding a cover crop).